How to File Divorce in Michigan

How to File Divorce in Michigan

Michigan has seen some tough times in recent years, with the population of Detroit steadily dropping from over 1.8 million after World War II to less than 700,000 now.  

All the economic turmoil that has come along with the exodus has put a strain on families, and if your marriage may be ending you need to familiarize yourself with the local divorce laws.

There are nonprofits like Michigan Legal Help that can help with the divorce process.  

Residency required

Before a Michigan court can grant a divorce, it must find that one of the spouses resided in Michigan for at least 180 days before filing the complaint.

The complaint must also be filed in the Michigan county where one spouse has lived for at least ten days in most situations.  

Grounds for divorce

Up until recent decades, a divorce would only be granted if one spouse committed some violation of the marriage.

Many states still have these grounds for divorce on the books, meaning a spouse could seek a divorce on the grounds that their spouse committed adultery or abuse. Michigan has completely abolished fault grounds, though.  

In Michigan, the only thing that can legally justify a divorce is an “allegation that there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the object of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.”  

In other words, one spouse is not supposed to run to court and bash the other spouse for being a bad husband or wife.  

In fact, the law actually says when you file for divorce you can only use the language in the law, you “shall make no other explanation” of why you are seeking a divorce.  You only tell the court that you want to break up because the marriage is not working.

The process is very straightforward

One spouse asks for a divorce in a “complaint” and then the other spouse must file an “answer.”  In reality, the court is virtually always going to grant the divorce even though technically the judge must hear evidence presented in open court and then determine the marriage is irretrievably broken.

The real disputes in divorce revolve around kids and money.

It is also worth noting that Michigan courts can issue an order for “separate maintenance,” which is essentially a legal separation where the court can resolve issues like custody and support without completely ending the marriage.  

This is often an interim step on the way to a full divorce.  

Resolving key disputes

When issuing a divorce, Michigan courts have almost completely free reign to make orders related to the care, custody, and support of a minor child.  

These are very painful and costly disputes to bring in front of a judge, and that is why parents often try to work it out among themselves or with a third party like their lawyer or a professional mediator.  

Courts also have to split up the property that a couple owns, and possibly require one spouse to support the other after the divorce.

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